Saturday, February 20, 2016

Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals

Let me start by saying that I do not believe the Pirates are going to be a bad team this year, however they didn't make significant additions but lost key players like Neil Walker and Pedro Alverez. I believe they are going to be the third place team and I apologize to all Pirates fans. Don't worry they'll be back in the spot light soon. Now onto the battle for first place.
The Cubs are the favorites to win the NL Central and the World Series. Now if you've read my blog before you'll know I am a Cubs fan. I'm going to stay as unbiased as I can because the Cardinals are a good team. So let's start with the additions, subtractions & re-signings for both teams.
Cubs Additions & Re-Signings
  1. Jason Heyward OF
  2. Ben Zobrist 2B
  3. John Lackey RHP
  4. Adam Warren RHP
  5. Rex Brothers LHP
  6. Trevor Cahill RHP
Cubs Subtractions
  1. Dexter Fowler CF
  2. Starlin Castro SS/2B
  3. Chris Denofia OF
  4. Austin Jackson OF
  5. Dan Haren RHP
  6. Tommy Hunter RHP
  7. Jason Motte RHP
  8. Fernando Rodney RHP
The Cubs additions are significant, especially for the Cardinals. They pouched the Cardinals two best players from 2015 in Heyward and Lackey. Adding Zobrist as well gives them a switch hitting On-Base threat that can play almost every position. The addition of Adam Warren will have him competing with Kyle Hendricks for the fifth starter spot. He did very well for the Yankees in an AL hitter friendly ballpark. I believe Warren will end up taking the fifth spot at some point. The subtractions are also fairly significant. Dexter Fowler was a great lead off hitter but a bad defender. His lose is a win-lose, but the addition of Heyward makes it lean towards a win. The lose of Starlin Castro was had me fairly disappointed. He was a fan favorite of mine and going to the Yankees makes it cut a little deeper. Javier Baez' transition to the outfield this winter will make up for the loses of Denorfia and Jackson. He's should play better in the outfield with his range and throwing arm. John Lackey is a vast improvement over Dan Haren and they already have a stacked bullpen to make up for those loses. I would have liked them to have added another lefty in case Brothers falters. The Cubs still have plenty of prospects to add if someone gets hurt.
Now to the Cardinals.
Cardinals Additions & Re-Signings
  1. Jedd Gyorko 2B/3B
  2. Brayan Pena C
  3. Mike Leake RHP
  4. Jonathan Broxton RHP
  5. Adam Wainwright RHP (Return)
Cardinals Subtractions
  1. Jason Heyward OF
  2. Mark Reynolds 1B
  3. Jon Jay OF
  4. Pete Kozma 2B
  5. Peter Bourjas OF
  6. John Lackey RHP
  7. Steve Cishek RHP
  8. Randy Choate LHP
  9. Carlos Villanueva RHP
  10. Lance Lynn RHP (Tommy John) 
The Cardinals additions are not significant but their loses are huge. The return of Wainwright to replace Lackey is an improvement at the top of the rotation. I have previously stated that I don't think Cardinals pitching is very good. I predicted it would be their downfall in the NLDS against either the Cubs or Pirates because of their WHIP. I was right. Wainwright makes a big difference because Lackey's WHIP is not good for a number one especially compare to Wainwright. Mike Leake as the replacement was not my favorite move. I Cardinals missed out on David Price, but I was disappointed that they didn't have a better back up plan. Leake has the same problem the rest of the Cardinals rotation have and that's a high WHIP. If the bullpen fixes that it won't be as problematic. I did however have trouble building the deeper part of their bullpen. Tyler Lyons and Tim Cooney break the bullpen but they are primarily starters so they'll have to make a transition. Jordan Walden and Miguel Socolovich didn't pitch at much last year and will need to prove they still can go. Then there is Sam Tuivailala. He's flame throwing rookie who had is cup of coffee last season. He also has a big WHIP issue but he's young and will make adjustments. The rest of the bullpen I have issues with, mainly WHIP like I've been preaching. Trevor Rosenthal is a good closer, but he get's in jams too often and it will come back to haunt him. I like Kevin Siegrist as a set up man, but I don't like Jonathan Broxton for the 6th or 7th inning. He did better for the Cardinals than the Reds so it's a wait and see for him. The rotation is still an issue for me as well. You guessed it, WHIP. I believe Michael Wacha's will go down as he gets older. I prefer him as a three but he's a fine two. Mike Leake is their three and Carlos Martinez is probably their four. Jaime Garcia did well in his return from injury but got lit up in the NLDS. He can be a good three but will have to work his way back up.
To finish this off let's highlight strengths and weaknesses.
Cubs Strengths
  1. Power Hitting
  2. On-Base Percentage
  3. Clutch Hitting
  4. Starting Pitching
  5. Bullpen
  6. Management
Cubs Weaknesses
  1. Outfield Defense
  2. Reliance on the Long Ball
  3. Striking Out
  4. Experience
Cardinals Strengths
  1. Clutch Hitting
  2. Lead Off Hitting
  3. Number 1 Starter
Cardinals Weaknesses
  1. Power Hitting
  2. Starting Pitching
  3. Bullpen
  4. Management
Let me clarify a few things. Strength and Weakness not listed for one team means it's neutral. A good example is the Cardinals On-Base Percentage. It's fine probably middle of the pack or a little higher. As for management, I don't like Matheny. He doesn't like change and doesn't make enough adjustments when it comes to young players.
 The Cubs have more strengths than the Cardinals and a little of that is probably bias, but the Cardinals are neutral in a lot of category. So I have the Cubs winning the NL Central. I have the going to the World Series. I believe they can win, but the defending champion Royals, the youthful Astros, the revamped Red Sox and power hitting Blue Jays can give them trouble. Plus the Mets stopped them last year before they could reach the World Series. With all that said, Go Cubs Go!!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Boston Celtics Double Blockbuster Trades

The Celtics have 13 of their last 17 games before the All-Star break. While this makes me quite happy I am skeptical that they can keep it up. So I've come up with a double trade that could push them to become the best team in the Eastern Conference.
First is to acquire Dwight Howard from the Rockets. This shouldn't actually cost the Celtics a lot in all reality. Dwight Howard is going to opt out of his contract with the Rockets at the end of the season and he will likely do so with any team that acquires him. I do believe that if the Celtics make run or even reach the Finals that he'd likely come back. So the Celtics would give up David Lee, Tyler Zeller, their 1st Round Pick and Dallas' First Round Pick for Howard. Lee and Zeller are both expiring contacts and trading Lee would also absorb some of Howards contract. As for the picks, neither are in the lottery but the Rockets could flip the picks with their own for a lottery pick or better players.
Second is to acquire Carmelo Anthony from the Knicks. Carmelo has a no trade clause and believes in New York, but the appeal of winning a title and playing for Brad Stevens could make him waive it. This trade would require the Celtics to give up more talent. They would give up Amir Johnson, James Young, Marcus Smart and Brooklyn's First Round Pick for Carmelo and Jose Calderon. Giving up Amir Johnson is mainly to absorb some or Carmelo's contract, plus he has a none guarantee for next year. Marcus Smart has a very high ceiling and already is a plus defender. I also believe James Young has an equally high ceiling. He's barely 20 and is already a great shooter. He really just needs more consistent playing time. Then of course there is Brooklyn's unprotected pick. Brooklyn is the third worse team in basketball and that pick has a legitimate chance of becoming the first pick. That pick could land them Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram who are both going to be elite NBA players, in my opinion. As for the Celtics they will also acquire Jose Calderon. Calderon is a better facilitator than Smart and is a better shooter. He also plays the same amounts of minutes and would make the bench better offensively.
With Carmelo Anthony I believe he is having one of the better seasons of his career when it comes defense and sharing the ball. His scoring is a bit down, but he's taking less shots however he's finding his teammates and making them better. Dwight Howard is in a similar situation when it comes to taking less shots. The difference is James Harden is a ball hog and takes a lot of bad shots. Howards offensive production is up despite taking less shots this year. He's averaging 12 rebounds a game and is still a great defender who would flourish in Stevens system.
So the Celtics would look like this.
  1. Isaiah Thomas          32.5   21.5/3.0/6.6 (2.0 3PTM)
  2. Avery Bradley          33.1   15.1/2.7/2.1 (1.6 Steals, 2.1 3PTM)
  3. Jae Crowder             32.1    14.1/5.6/1.9 (1.8 Steals, 1.7 3PTM)
  4. Carmelo Anthony     34.8   21.4/7.9/4.0
  5. Dwight Howard        32.3   14.6/12.0/1.5 (1.3 Blocks)
  1. Jose Calderon           27.6   7.5/3.1/4.1 (1.3 3PTM)
  2. Evan Turner             27.1   9.9/4.7/4.4
  3. Jonas Jerebko           13.8   3.9/3.4/0.7
  4. Jared Sullinger         23.4   9.9/8.5/2.3
  5. Kelly Olynyk           20.3   10.1/4.3/1.6 (1.3 3PTM)
Now Crowder and Bradley will likely take less shots and Carmelo and Dwight will play slightly fewer minutes in Brad's system because they have such a strong bench. A bench that will get even better with Jared Sullinger on it. Both Sullinger and Olynyk have surprisingly great defensive ratings. Evan Turner plays a facilitator roll at the small or two guard, which would give Calderon the ability to shoot more. I truly believe this team would beat the Raptors and the Cavaliers to make the Finals. Can they beat the Warriors? Well, anything can happen is sports.